Though an amazing 50 other concerts seem to be happening between Monday and Sunday, six celebrations planned in celebration of Gunther Schuller’s 90th birthday may constitute the major events for many of us. Schuller’s death five months ago inspired extended looks at his considerable legacy.
Gunther’s weekend starts a day early, on Thursday. At NEC, John Heiss has curated a November 19th concert that spans his 70 years of composing, as well as the tremendous range of genres and ideas encompassed in his output. Free at 7:30pm at Jordan Hall, Gunther Schuller: A Musical Celebration features Quartet for 4 Double Basses; Sandpoint Rag (pianist Veronica Jochum); Headin’ Out, Movin’ In; Grand Concerto for Percussion and Keyboards; and Ran Blake’s Gunther. At 8pm at BU and also free, David Martins leads the Boston University Wind Ensemble in Schuller’s Symphony for Brass and Percussion, and other works.
On Friday evening November 20th at 8pm, free recitals continue, with organist Aaron Sunstein giving the world premiere of Schuller’s (1981) Organ Symphony, with other works, at Church of the Advent; co-sponsored by NEC and the Boston chapter of the American Guild of Organists.
Saturday November 21st at 8 pm at MIT’s Kresge Auditorium sees Americans We: Celebrating the Influence of Gunther Schuller, by the MITWE Wind Ensemble, Fred Harris and Ken Amis conductors. Admission $5 (free in advance with MIT email). Works include Schuman’s George Washington Bridge, Bird’s (ed. Schuller) Serenade for Wind Instruments, Joplin’s (arr. Schuller) Combination March, Amis’s A Tonal Fanfare, composed in 1995 for Schuller’s 70th birthday, McAllister’s Popcopy, Peck’s Drastic Measures for Saxophone Quartet, and Schuller’s Blue Dawn into White Heat. If you lack a Lincoln or prefer less wind, across the river at BoCo, free at 8p, the Contemporary Music Ensemble (Eric Hewitt, director) will offer Schuller’s Horn Quintet alongside pieces by Babbitt, Hyla, and Oliveros.
Sunday November 22ndmarks the 90th-birthday celebration. From 11am to 1pm, Jordan Hall hosts a memorial service with reminiscences and reflections (John Heiss, Russell Sherman, Laurence Lesser, Carl Atkins, Michael Gandolfi and others) interspersed among clips from the 2014 film The Past Is in the Present: At Home with Gunther Schuller. The third movement of the String Quartet No. 3 will be played by the Borromeo. At 3pm the Boston Modern Orchestra Project (Gil Rose, conductor; admission) will continue with a memorial concert featuring Games, Journey into Jazz (with guest artists Don Braden, Rich Kelley, Nicole Kampgen-Schuller, Ed Schuller, George Schuller, narrated by Nat Hentoff), the semi-staged opera Fishermen and His Wife (with Sondra Kelly, Steven Goldstein, David Kravitz, and Katrina Galka, in collaboration with Odyssey Opera and NEC; libretto by John Updike).
After dinner, recross the Charles back to Kresge for the free 8pm “Tribute to Gunther Schuller: Celebrating a Life in Pursuit of Beauty.” It features Peter Child’s For Gunther’s 75th (violinist Young-Nam Kim, violist Daniel Kim) and G.S. in Memoriam, Schuller’s String Quartet No. 4 with the Borromeo, Lament for M (large jazz ensemble including George Garzone, tenor sax, Kampgen-Schuller alto sax, E. Schuller bass and George Schuller drums, other guests and MIT student musicians), another Ran Blake piano tribute, excerpts from the Franck Flute Sonata (Michael Faust and Randall Hodgkinson) and the Brahms Horn Trio (Rick Todd, Joel Smirnoff, and Chris O’Riley; Schuller was an outstanding hornist), and Sandpoint Rag, this time by members of the NE Ragtime Ensemble. The evening ends with performances of a couple of jazz works, Denzil Best’s Move and E. Schuller’s Big Daddy’s Magic Row Blues.
Laudamus Schullerensis concludes on Sunday at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Brookline, where at 7pm for the Winsor Music Chamber Series II (paid admission) La Fenice Quintet performs Schuller’s Sonata for Oboe and Piano, along with works of Haydn and Faure.